Asser Bluesdagen

The last weekend of January the various pubs and cafes in Assen join together to organize the bluesfestival called the Asser Bluesdagen. There is a kick-off on Friday afternoon and an Afterblues on Sunday, but the main part of the festival is on Saturday.

The Saturday part of the festival is also called the Bluesroute. You need a bit of good weather as you’re walking from cafe to cafe to pub, but then again, that is the fun part of it. The locations are cozy, the stages are small and the whole thing feels pretty laid back. All you need to do is buy a button and you’re granted access to all the locations.

In all there are about 17 bands playing tonight, but instead of running from gig to gig, there’s two bands I really want to see and a third one I’m curious to see. After an initial round seeing Hans van Lier & The Sidekicks playing in De Pepermolen with light I really can’t do anything with, I walk onwards to cafe Cosy Corner where Mrs. Hips is about to start. The band, led by Simone Roerade plays a soul/funk version of blues. It swings and is a good start to the evening. Photographically it’s a bit of a challenge as there’s a huge amount of pink/purple from one side and hardly anything from the other. The cafe is filled up quite well and the set goes down really well.

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However, there’s more to see and I leave Mrs. Hips, cross the street and enter cafe De Koppelaarden. It’s incredibly busy here and they are even forced to close the cafe to new public until some others leave. As the first set of the Jon Amor Blues Group ends, a group of people chooses that moment to check out other bands and I can enter and even find a spot front stage.

It’s not strange that De Koppelpaarden is full, Jon Amor has some great history here. Long long ago with The Hoax, a particularly popular British bluesband in the nineties, but also on his own. First simply as Amor or Jon Amor and now as Jon Amor Blues Group. However, this latest setup also ends. Tonight is actually the last gig for the group. Personally I actually got to know The Hoax after I heard Jon and have seen Jon in the various setups in the past years and got to see the reunited The Hoax twice in 2008. That was also the last time I saw Jon so it was a great opportunity to finally see him again tonight. Jon has surrounded himself with a bunch of young eager musicians and the gig has a great energy bringing the finest of British bluesrock.

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Eventually I drag myself away from the gig as there’s one more act I have to see. Last year I saw Bradley’s Circus in cafe Cosy Corner. A fantastic bluesgig with a band led by Mattanja Joy Bradley. However, the band members have their own particular side projects. Guitarist Andre van den Boogaart released an album in 2012 called ‘Met Modder In Mijn Bloed’ (With Mud In My Blood), a collection of personal songs. It’s a terrific album that drifts in directions of delta blues, great New Orleans swing, jazz, a dash of country and singer/songwriter.

And that’s exactly what we get on stage in cafe Time Out with Andre van den Boogaart en De Rauwe Rand but with a bit more power and some rockabilly added. The band is simply terrific and it really is an unbelievable shame the audience isn’t any bigger as they absolutely deserved a full cafe. It was great to see some of the band members of Bradley’s Circus and Alex Akela (whom I know from his work with Vanessa Peters and Mattanja Joy Bradley solo). A terrific gig!

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Once this show is over and I’ve chatted with the band and said my goodbye’s it’s past 2am and as I walk past the cafes it’s obvious that the Bluesroute is over. Lots and lots of cars outside being loaded with instruments, bands preparing to go to their hotels or to start the (long) journey homeward. I haven’s seen that many bands, but I saw some great music again and had a great time and that’s what it’s all about!